Lusofonia Festival records big spike in attendance

The 20th anniversary edition of the Festival that joins together China and Portuguese- speaking countries came to a close yesterday evening.

After four days of events and performances on and off stage, the conclusion was unanimous among several of the regular faces: this year’s festival had attracted more people.

It was in fact easy to see that the area around the Taipa Houses-Museum had become too small for the very numerous visitors that filled streets populated by associations displaying and selling traditional goods from each country. They were mostly handicrafts and food and beverages vendors, but not only.

As explained to the Times, Helena Coelho, responsible for the East Timor stall said, “We decided to bring a piece of the culture [of East Timor] and so we brought musical culture and literature both in paper and on CDs,” works from Maestro Simão Barreto that revived some of the traditional Timorese songs.

Besides music and poetry, the East Timor stall features handicraft pieces created by the artisan, who in turn demonstrated to how to do the Timorese “Tais” – a form of traditional weaving created by the women of East Timor.

Coelho said the traditional clothes were “much requested in previous editions,” and so the association brought them along this time.

The sales are also going well, she said, “especially on the small pieces such as hairbands, pockets and bags. Some are already sold out. The big clothes are a bit expensive, since it is a very time-consuming and difficult handmade activity [to make them], and people refrain themselves a bit to buy them.”

At the Brazil stall, one of the most notable over the last 20 years, it was remarked that such a high number of people had visited that that the association had to restock on the ingredients for the famous drink “caipirinha.”

“Brigadeiros” and other typical sweets were also selling well in a stand that aimed to highlight Brazilian poetry. Titled “Anthology of Brazilian Poetry”, the stand included a “poetry tree” where poetry messages were hung on display.

Maria Amelia Antonio, president of the Portuguese Association “Casa de Portugal” (CPM), agreed with the assessment of increased visitation this year. “We have many more people and right from 2 p.m. onwards,” she said, noting that this had been possible because of an increase in the number of Chinese attendees. “That was always the goal,” she explained.

Marissa Lam, from Macau, said that she came to the festival to support her boyfriend, who was one of the performers on stage. But while at the festival, she has not missed the opportunity to try the food and drink; the “Caipirinha” and the “Sangria” are a must, she said, as well as some typical Portuguese snacks.

A 27-year-old Indonesian non- resident worker, who identified herself only as Windy, said that she was visiting the festival for the first time. Windy and her friend “just saw it from the garden when walking there and came to see,” adding that she was enjoying it, “especially the music and dancing.” But Windy said that she had not tried the food on account of it being too expensive.

If the human congestion on Avenida da Praia Grande had slowed the pace of passersby, the area around the amphitheater was even busier, as several groups had taken to the stage with a variety of performances involving music and dance.

In one of the most applauded acts, local group Macau Art Fusion paired with traditional Portuguese songs and dance troupe “Macau no Coração” to present an act that delves deep into the roots of both the Portuguese and Macau people.

Laura Nyogery, the leader of the troupe, said: “We pick up the theme from fishing and fishermen and the sea, and relate it to the history of Portugal. [We] also address the [ideas] of discovery and adventure and we cross this with the poetry of Zeca Afonso, merging it into several art forms.” She explained that the purpose is to highlight feelings such as “hope or missing someone,” using metaphors of the lives of fishermen, shown through the choreography, music, wardrobe and make-up.

Nyogery noted the importance of Lusofonia Festival for the group as, “it’s a very anticipated event by the students because it has an audience that is very familiar and friendly. They all have parents or school friends, neighbors and others in the audience and it’s important for them to be able to share what they have been learning,” she said. “Every time we have a performance like this they grow a lot, […] it’s fabulous to realize their development.”

Nyogery remarked that this development is clear and warming.

“We see students that do not know any Portuguese and after just a few weeks [or months] are here singing Portuguese songs with a real notion of the feelings involved. We explain to them exactly what those words mean so they can feel and translate that on stage,” she concluded.

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